Sabi Sands Game Reserve has a special history in South Africa. As the first private game reserve in the country, it has built a longstanding reputation for superb wildlife conservation, community development and spectacular wildlife sightings. The Sabi Sand region is located adjacent to Kruger National Park in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Sabi Sands Game Reserve: The World’s Premier Safari Destination

Baby lion cub sabi sands South Africa mala mala game reserve

© Lorraine Doyle

Sabi Sands Game Reserve is a 160,000-acre reserve that has become a world-renowned wildlife hotspot. The region is spotted with vast and varied grasslands and woodland savannah. Thousands of native trees, grasses and shrubs support the healthy populations of herbivores and omnivores. With both the Sabi and Sand Rivers flowing through the region, the vibrant riverine vegetation provides high-quality habitat for leopards, white rhinos, reedbucks, cheetahs, elands, sable antelopes, nyalas and hyenas to thrive and flourish.

Sabi Sand is also a premium bird-watching hotspot with more than 350 documented bird species prevalent in the region. Widow finches, buntings, cisticolas, mannikins, red-billed oxpeckers, comb ducks and purple herons dot the skies. Additionally, the region supports 47 large mammal species, 57 species of reptiles, 90 species of trees and many more shrubs and grasses.

country symbol bird South Africa

Lilac Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) © Richard de Gouveia

The Big Five—lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, elephant and black rhinoceros—are nearly a guaranteed sight at Sabi Sand. The region is well known as one of the best places to see leopards, one of Africa’s more elusive species. Sabi Sand also provides travelers with the opportunity to see Africa’s “Secret 7”, extremely rare nocturnal animals that have adapted to survive in the surrounding wilderness. The “Secret 7” are the serval, African wild cat, aardvark, pangolin, civet, porcupine and large spotted genet.

The Outstanding History of Conservation and Sustainability at Sabi Sand

Today, Sabi Sand conservation initiatives are praised for the highest density of big game in South Africa. Before the land was designated for wildlife conservation and eco-friendly tourism, farmers drilled boreholes that now serve as a consistent water supply for the region’s abundant fauna and flora. These watering holes provide a year-long supply of water that isn’t impacted by the seasons. This allows the region to support hundreds of species on any given day. The self-sustaining nature of this diverse ecosystem deserves to be protected. The stewards that founded Sabi Sand understood this and knew the region was a remarkably intact piece of wilderness that deserves to be protected and preserved to ensure a positive future for the people, wilderness and wildlife. These values are at the core of how Sabi Sand has managed the land and has led to many notable conservation wins.

Elephants and birds watering hole water conservation South Africa

© Richard de Gouveia

Sabi Sand is comprised of various private reserves that offer travelers some of the most unique wildlife safaris available in Southern Africa. Each private reserve runs initiatives and programs designed to promote and conserve wildlife and provide a wilderness sanctuary that protects and preserves every inhabitant within its borders. Conservation initiatives have focused on alien plant control, minimizing wildlife diseases, addressing soil erosion, controlling and preventing bushveld fires, and much more.

Sabi Sand, alongside partners, is spearheading efforts to re-introduce the southern ground hornbill—one of South Africa’s most iconic and culturally significant birds. Intensive wildlife protection programs also support rhino populations and have successfully re-introduced the African wild dog to the region.

travelers with nat hab and WWF on safari photographing a pack of painted dogs African wild dogs endangered species

African wild dogs or “painted dogs” © Richard de Gouveia

Equally foundational to Sabi Sands Game Reserve has been the investment in the Indigenous and local peoples that steward the surrounding communities. Many of the private reserves have prioritized building lasting partnerships with neighboring communities. With 12 surrounding rural villages, Sabi Sand actively supports these communities through environmental education outreach programs as well as training and skills development. Additionally, many of the lodges employ a large number of community members to ensure the community gains directly from this tourism.

A South Africa Tour with Natural Habitat Adventures

giraffe with oxpeckers flying in background South Africa sabi sands mala mala game preserve

© Richard de Gouveia

Natural Habitat Adventures is a trusted partner and supporter of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Their featured trip, Secluded South Africa, is a premier safari for those looking to experience one of the most highly regarded private wildlife sanctuaries in the country. Travelers will stay in intimate and distinctive accommodations where sustainability and conservation are integral values. Nat Hab has exclusive access to MalaMala Private Reserve, which provides one of the finest experiences in Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

One of the major advantages of Sabi Sand Game Reserve is that Nat Hab’s highly trained and experienced Expedition Leaders take travelers to explore varied habitats in solitude, viewing abundant wildlife away from crowds of other visitors. Guides and drivers can venture off-road in order to track animals and get closer to wildlife, and guided bush walks and night drives allow travelers to see rare nocturnal species.

Enjoy an Exclusive Safari Excursion at MalaMala Private Reserve

Safari night bush walk under the Milky Way stars south africa

© Richard de Gouveia

MalaMala Game Reserve lies in the heart of the legendary Sabi Sand region. The reserve spans 33,000 acres and shares a 12-mile unfenced border with Kruger National Park. This reserve was one of the region’s first to transition from hunting to becoming a sustainable wildlife viewing destination. Today, the reserve is celebrated for conservation programs and initiatives that have successfully re-introduced the iconic African wild dog. Now, MalaMala is one of the premier locations to see abundant populations of this endangered canine. The Sand River flows through the old-growth riverine forests that make this private concession home to diverse wildlife. MalaMala is famous for its leopard viewing, and of course, the Big Five—lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, elephant and black rhinoceros will be abundant.

This private reserve offers the most secluded safari available in the heart of Southern Africa. While the rest of the private reserves in Sabi Sand allow vehicles to travel freely between them, no outside visitors or vehicles are allowed into MalaMala’s areas. The rustic eco-lodging available at the MalaMala Main Camp places visitors along the Sand River, where the flowing waters regularly attract wandering wildlife. Your wildlife viewing can continue in the comfort of lodges that provide a deck with views of the river or when taking a dip in the infinity pool.

Sabi Sand is a first-class experience for travelers looking to explore South Africa’s premier private reserves on an exclusive adventure. With only six guests, explore uncrowded private reserves on a personalized African safari.

nighttime safari ride under the Milky Way night sky South Africa mala mala game reserve

© Richard de Gouveia